Much ado about strawberries…

August 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

As previously mentioned, I went a little bit crazy on the fruit last week.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been doing an insane amount of baking trying to polish off my supply and stuff them in the freezer before they go rotten.  I was lucky enough to get about 500 grams of strawberries last week that didn’t quite ripen until just a few days ago.  So after making my typical-but-oh-so-tasty breakfast of blueberries and sliced strawberries, I thought I’d take the remaining dozen or so and put them to good use–by baking with them, of course!

So I went and researched some recipes that included strawberries, and when I saw this one, I knew I had to make it: Brown Butter Strawberry Banana Bread.  I am a sucker for anything with bananas in it, bananas so ripe they look like Dumbledore’s cursed hand (Half-Blood Prince anyone?).  And although the thought of browning butter AGAIN almost turned me off, I had to give it a try.  My husband says it’s like a smoothie in bread.  Oh how I miss Jamba Juice…

This bread is not as sweet as most banana breads I’ve eaten, even though I added strawberry flavored yogurt instead of just plain, but it is still really good with a cup of coffee at breakfast.  Mmmmmm.  I’ve only changed a couple of things from this recipe that comes from Joy the Baker.

Brown Butter Strawberry Banana Bread

Adapted from Joythebaker.com

  • 6ounces unsalted butter, browned
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup strawberry yogurt
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (2 large bananas)
  • 3/4 cup diced strawberries plus 2 strawberries sliced thinly for topping

Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F) with the rack in the center of the oven, and grease and flour a 9×5″ loaf pan.  Now, brown your butter by putting a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Snap,crackle, pop, it should start to foam and then brown.  You can swirl it in the pan or stir it with a spoon, just be careful not to let it burn.  When it smells nutty, remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool.

Next, combine your dry ingredients into a large bowl: flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon all become close friends.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and yogurt.  Add the mashed up bananas.  Add the butter once it has cooled, or it will curdle your mix and scramble your eggs.

Combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, folding to make sure it incorporates well.  Fold in the strawberries, and make sure everything is combined without over mixing.  Scrape the bottom just to make sure.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, pull out the loaf and top with the sliced strawberries.  Bake for an additional 35-45 minutes.  A skewer poked in the center of the loaf should come out clean.

I let my loaf cool in the pan until it is room temperature, but experts suggest after 15 minutes, inverting it onto a wire rack to finish cooling.  Whatev.

Now if this bread lasts longer than a couple of days, I suggest slicing it and storing it in individually slices in the freezer to grab and go.  Good luck!

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During Ramadan, let there be fruit…

August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

I am in the midst of my second Ramadan and, unlike last year, I am putting my time at home to good use.  Rather than taking a much loved (and dreaded) nap during the peak “desert heat” hours (2pm-5pm), I’ve been treating myself to delicious home-baked goodies filled with summer fruits.  I’ve never been much of a fruit lover, apart from oranges and bananas, but a trip back home to Florida in July made me realize how much I was missing out by skimping on an elemental food group.  My mom dished the most magnificent bowls of mixed berries, mango coconut bread, juicy chunks of pineapple…and that was just for breakfast.  I swore to my husband and myself, that when we returned to Dubai, I would stock up on varieties of fruits that had never been christened into our new home.  This week, I definitely went on overload: bananas, oranges, apples, kiwis, pears, cherries, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple.  Slowly, I’ve been reducing our fruit bowl and loading our refrigerator with goodies like banana pineapple coconut white chocolate chip bread, blueberry and strawberry fruit cups, cherry clafoutis, and today, peach shortbread squares.

I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and had intended on baking it yesterday since my peaches didn’t look like they would make it much longer.  But after spending what seemed like a lifetime browning the butter (I had the setting too low on my stove), and setting it in the freezer to solidify, I had already lost interest and instead started to make dinner.  Besides, there were plenty of other fruity desserts to choose from.

(Let me just add that while it may be worth it to brown the butter, it’s probably not the best idea to leave it in the freezer overnight…I’m just saying.  Even if you dice it into cubes, you’ll still have a heck of a time breaking it up with a pastry blender, or even your hands.)

Although it’s a very easy recipe to follow, and I read it through several times before starting, I still managed to forget to put the egg in the mixture.  Shortbread has never been a particularly favorite crust of mine to prepare, but it actually came out just fine.  Apparently, if you pack it in enough, you get a really crisp bottom crust that you won’t mind picking out of your teeth later.

Peach Shortbread from Smittenkitchen.com

I used a 9×13 glass baking dish and cut them (rather diagonally) into 16 square(ish) bars.

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 pitted peaches sliced 1/8-1/4 inch thickness

The first thing to do is brown your butter.  Put a small saucepan over medium low heat (not too low, or you’ll be waiting 30 minutes for your butter to finally brown).  The butter should foam up, then turn kinda clear, then start to turn a little amber and nutty smelling.  Keep stirring and don’t leave it unattended because it can burn pretty easily.  Once it’s browned, allow it to cool to room temperature, then put it in the freezer until it gets solid.

Pre-heat your oven to 190 C (or 375 F) and grease your baking dish with butter.  Mix the sugar, baking powder, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a bowl.  Using a pastry blender, add the egg and brown butter (which I diced into smaller pieces before hand to make my life easier) and blend until it becomes a crumbly mixture. Put 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish and pat it down until it is really solid.  I used the back of a measuring cup and pressed it all over the surface so the bottom layer was even and there were no finger dents.  Just a little trick I picked up from the Barefoot Contessa.

Next layer the peaches in a single layer over the crust then sprinkle the remaining mixture over top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Of course, if you’re anything like me and forget what time you placed them in the oven, just hover around the oven, peeking in the window every few minutes until the top of the shortbread is golden brown.  Make sure to let them cool in the dish for about 30 minutes or else you’ll get something that looks more like peach cobbler.

Enjoy!

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